The development of Craughwell A.C.
Craughwell AC was first established in 1968 and disappeared and reappeared a few times in the intervening years before becoming an ever-present in the last 20 years. It is managed by an Executive Committee of 15 people most of whom are coaches and who mainly look after the juvenile section of the club with a separate sub-committee looking after the senior section.
The juvenile section has seen phenomenal growth from a base of 50 athletes in 2002 to become the largest juvenile club in the country since 2013 with numbers ranging between 500 and 600 each year. Initial growth was achieved through close cooperation with local primary schools, with coaches going into several schools on a voluntary basis to conduct training sessions. That cooperation led to the 2007 development of an all-weather pitch on the grounds of Craughwell NS in collaboration with the school and the local soccer club – a facility which resulted in the doubling of membership to 400 children in the following 3 years.
That development gave the club the confidence to embark on its own facility development, purchasing an 8-acre site adjacent to the school in 2014 and developing floodlighting, a sprint track, jumps areas and grass running routes since then with the help of fundraising, loans and grants. The facility development is largely funded by Sports Capital grants and by loans from Community Finance Ireland, with the view that we need to use debt to provide facilities to current athletes and use membership income to finance that debt – rather than doing endless fundraising to provide the same facilities 5 years later. It’s a practice that has worked well so far as the club had €44k in savings in 2014, but has spent €500k on facility development since then and has just €160k in debt at present.
The club’s facility progress has been matched by its coach development program with over 40 volunteer coaches routinely coaching different age groups each week, most of whom have embarked on the Athletics Ireland Coach Training Program. The club strongly encourages its coaches to do the AAI’s coaching ladder and covers the cost of each training course.
Training sessions are structured by age group with separate training groups for the younger ages up to U12 due to large numbers and then groups combining into 2-year groups in the older age groups. Our 2 largest groups U9s and U10s have 160 children between them – larger than the total juvenile membership of many clubs.
Each year we commence taking membership in the senior infants’ class and recruit new coaches from amongst their parents – with 1 or 2 existing coaches dropping down an age group to help. We also encourage TY students in the club to start coaching our younger ages and we pay for them to do the AAI coaching courses. We have over 150 teenagers in the club, a statistic which we are very proud of and we cater for all levels of athletes from social and recreational to elite.
In general coaches stick with the same group of athletes right through their juvenile years – the club has found that the bond of loyalty and commitment that develops between the athlete and the coach in that situation is a critical factor in holding the athlete in the sport and is slowly helping athletes transition into the senior ranks.
It’s not easy to hold seniors in rural clubs when study or work takes them far away to other counties but the club has a very ambitious facility development program which hopefully will provide facilities which are second to none over the next 6 years and help its young adults stay in the sport and hopefully stay in the club.
The lesson that the club has learned over the years is that talent is everywhere – we just need the coaching/administrative structures around that to help it blossom and keep progressing facility development to make the lives of both coaches and athletes easier.
Thanks to Michael Tobin for submitting this piece.